|Saturday, June 30, 2001||
OVERLOOKING the Sutlej valley in the lesser-known Seraj region of Kulu district, and about 150 km from Shimla and 17 km from Rampur, is the large Nirmand village. This village has been in existence since the early Vedic period, making it one of the oldest rural settlements in India. A number of ancient stone and wooden temples dating back to the 6th and the 7th centuries A.D. speak of Nirmandís religious and historical importance. For this reason it is often called the "Kashi of the Himalayas."
One of the ancient
shrines in the village is dedicated to Goddess Ambika, the mother of
Parshuram. Although the original structure has been altered, several old
stone sculptures have been preserved in the temple complex. A unique
feature of the temple is its roof, which is made of pure copper sheets.
Another temple nearby, called Deccani Mahadev Temple, is dedicated to
Lord Shiva. Its lingam is believed to have been brought from
Deccan, and hence the name. The temple is renowned for its intricately
carved wooden doors and pillars that are probably the finest examples of
woodcarving in the state. Nirmandís principal shrine, however, is the
Parshuram temple complex, which is built in the traditional Pahari style
with gabled slate roof and extensive use of wood and stone. The exterior
wooden balconies and pillars are elaborately carved in folk style,
depicting scenes from the Hindu mythology. The temple complex resembles
a hill fortress, which encloses a small courtyard with the only entrance
from the western side. The northern section of the temple is a double-storeyed
structure, which houses the legendary bhandar (storehouse) that
is believed to contain priceless artefacts of which little is known.
Nirmand is famous for its annual Buddi Divali fair, which falls a month after Divali and the Bhunda festival, celebrated once in 12 years. The village probably derives its name from nar-mund, a Sanskrit term for a manís head. In the earlier days, a man was sacrificed during the Bhunda festival in a unique rope-sliding ceremony. Nowhere else in India has this hoary tradition of human sacrifice (Purush Medh Bhunda Yajna) as mentioned in the Rig Veda and prescribed in the Yajur Veda, been preserved in its purity as in Nirmand and the surrounding areas. It is during the Bhunda celebrations that the Parshuram Bhandar is opened and the artistic wealth of the temple is displayed to the public. The prized objects include a copper plate dating to the 6th-7th century A.D. and the famous brass bust of Sujanu Devi, discovered during the 1919 Bhunda festival by a British officer called Schuttleworth. The inscription on the bust dates it to 1026 AD. Many stone sculptures dating back to the 6th-7th century have also been discovered from the bhandar. Two of them, a stone sculpture and a stone pillar, are displayed in the temple courtyard. All these objects serve as a reminder of the villageís remote past.
For centuries, Nirmand virtually served
as a museum of the regionís art and architecture. In recent years,
however, this ancient village has fallen prey to human greed and
indifference. Several priceless artefacts, including the triple-faced
silver mask of the presiding deity Parshuram, have been stolen from its
temples. It is time Nirmand is declared a heritage village and efforts
are made to restore and preserve its monuments.